Jacqueline Cabasso / The Daily Californian – 2005-10-29 22:42:02
BERKELEY, CA (October 28, 2005) — As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, we should also recall the 60th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons. Two US atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 and killed more than 210,000 men, women and children.
The lucky ones were instantly incinerated. Others died slowly and painfully from burns and radiation sickness. Cancers and birth defects continue. The survivors live daily with the memory of “hell on earth.”
After World War II, the US led the world in founding the United Nations, to prevent countries from attacking each other and create procedures to resolve international conflicts. The US ratified the UN Charter, a treaty that became part of the “supreme law of the land” under the US Constitution.
The first resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly called for “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.” Unfortunately, we haven’t made much progress. Today there are nearly 30,000 nuclear weapons in the world, over 10,000 in the US arsenal.
The United States is modernizing its nuclear stockpile and has declared contingencies for pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy. Every nuclear weapons scientist at the Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories is an employee of UC, which has managed the labs since their inception.
Much UN machinery has been created to address the challenges of nuclear disarmament. The UN also hosts reviews of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the United States and the four other original nuclear weapon-owning states to negotiate the elimination of their nuclear arsenals.
The UN International Court of Justice issued an authoritative interpretation of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995, declaring that all nations are obligated to conclude negotiations on the elimination of nuclear weapons. But, as the mayor of Hiroshima told the court, “History is written by the victors. Thus, the heinous massacre that was Hiroshima has been handed down to us as a perfectly justified act of war.
As a result … we have never directly confronted the full implications of this horrifying act for the future of the human race.” Virtually all nations are now UN members, but serious power imbalances are impeding progress in many areas.Worst of all, the Security Council’s permanent members, the five original nuclear weapon states, wield exclusive veto power in that body.
In the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq, a war of aggression initiated in violation of the UN Charter, President Bush told the American public, “We cannot wait for the final proof-the smoking gun-that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” He didn’t tell us the mushroom cloud was more likely to come from the United States.
This spring, the United States held up the five-year review of the treaty by refusing to acknowledge commitments it had made in 1995 and 2000 to “systematic and progressive efforts” to implement Article VI.
For nine years, the United States has blocked consensus in the UN Conference on Disarmament. And just last month, the United States succeeded in stripping any reference to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament from the UN 60th anniversary World Summit Outcome document. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called this a “disgrace” and “inexcusable.”
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency and winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, has declared: “The US government demands that other nations not possess nuclear weapons. Meanwhile it is arming itself … If we do not stop applying double standards we will end up with more nuclear weapons … We must make reliance on nuclear weapons obsolete. We have to look at nuclear weapons the same way we look at genocide or slavery — as taboo.”
Despite its problems and failures, if the UN didn’t exist we’d want to invent one. As American citizens it’s up to us to hold our government accountable to international law while we work for nuclear abolition and democratic reform of the United Nations.
As UC students, it’s your responsibility to see that your university upholds international law. Without this, celebrating the United Nations has less meaning.
Jacqueline Cabasso is executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation. She spoke at the Oct. 24 rally on Sproul for the 60th anniversary of the United Nations.
(c) The Daily Californian
The Western States Legal Foundation [1504 Franklin Street, Suite #202, Oakland, California USA 94612. (510) 839-5877, Fax: (510) 839-5397. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.wslfweb.org] is part of the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons and United for Peace and Justice.
“Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” — Albert Einstein
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.